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Sunday, October 26, 2014

31 Days of Halloween 2014: Day 26

Week #5: Killer Bods
The Beast with Five Fingers
1946
Robert Florey

Francis Ingram (Victor Francen) is a renowned pianist who suffered a stroke that paralyzed his right side. He now lives in a secluded mansion with his nurse, and few other people including Hilary Cummins (Peter Lorre). Hilary transcribes piano pieces to be played with one hand. One night Francis has a bad reaction to his food, and dies when he falls down the stairs. Several nights later, people around the house begin to hear piano music playing downstairs. The police discover that Ingram’s mausoleum has been broken into, and his hand cut off. Hilary thinks that the hand is looking for revenge.

The Beast with Five Fingers sounds like it should be a lurid, grimy movie about a killer hand, something not unlike The Crawling Hand (1963). It actually is much more of a mystery. There is the continuing question of Francis Ingram’s death, and multiple wills. The cops are suspicious of everyone. The viewer is soon trained to not necessarily trust what they are shown, no matter how blatant the imagery. There is also a thread of black humor woven throughout the story that keeps it from becoming just another film with people creeping through a dark mansion at night. As you would expect, Lorre’s sweaty nervous performance dominates the film. There is an extended closing joke, which is made to remind the audience not to take the darker elements of the film too seriously, it starts out charming and then goes on too long, but it’s the only misfire in this unusual horror movie.

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